With the holiday season upon us, you’ve surely been hearing the same old Christmas tunes over and over on the radio, on TV and in stores while shopping — and you’re probably sick of them already. If you love festive songs, but are looking for something new, Headlines & Global News is here to help! We reviewed a bevy of 2015’s brand new Christmas albums and came up with a list of the 25 best. Whether you like traditional holiday music, updated versions of the standards or are looking for completely original compositions, there is something for everyone. The records listed are all available via iTunes, Amazon and other places where you can purchase music unless noted. Enjoy!
The Brian Setzer Orchestra: “Rockin’ Rudolph”
Big band swing versions of Christmas favorites make up the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s first holiday album in 10 years, “Rockin’ Rudolph.” Highlights of the bass-heavy album include “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide” (yes, from “The Flintstones”), “Rockabilly Rudolph” (a surf version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”), “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Swingin’ Joy.” There are also several instrumental versions of the classics on the 12-track opus. Catch Setzer and his 18-piece orchestra on their 12th annual Christmas Rocks! tour through Dec. 29.
Jim Brickman: “Comfort & Joy”
Award-winning pianist Jim Brickman’s new Christmas album is a mix of peaceful instrumentals and delightful tracks sung by guest artists. Of the piano-driven songs, originals “Comfort & Joy” and “Thanksgiving, along with “Silver Bells” and “The First Noel,” really stand out. John Oates singing the tale of the “Night Before Christmas” is a highlight of the songs with lyrics as is new tune “Sending You a Little Christmas,” which features the legendary Johnny Mathis. Rebecca Lynn Howard, Charlie Alan, Leslie Odom, Jr. and violinist Tracy Silverman are also featured. Brickman is on tour supporting “Comfort & Joy” through Dec. 31.
Marc Broussard: “Magnolias & Mistletoe”
“Bayou Soul” singer Marc Broussard gifts us with a mature, piano-driven compilation featuring eight classic holiday tunes (soulful album opener “The First Noel,” “O Holy Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” are standouts) and two originals, “When Christmas Comes Along” and the bluesy “Almost Christmas” (about yearning for home after being away — perfect for entertainers or those in the military), which may be a bit more contemporary, but fit in nicely alongside the other songs in this collection.
T. Graham Brown: “Christmas With T. Graham Brown”
Soulful country singer T. Graham Brown’s first holiday offering features mostly traditional holiday tunes that don’t stray too far from the versions we all know and love. The horns and piano on “Here Comes Santa Claus” are a nice addition to the tune and “Silver Bells” best showcases Brown’s distinct voice. The lone original song (co-written with his wife Sheila and their son Acme), the fun “Santa Claus is Coming in a UFO,” is the highlight of the album. It’s nice to know that Santa delivers throughout the galaxy!
Elizabeth Chan: “Red & Green”
The fourth holiday effort from “Queen of Christmas” Elizabeth Chan features 12 original tunes produced and written by the beautifully-voiced chanteuse from New York City. The collection contains both previously released and brand new tunes such as “A Christmas Song (Orchestral),” a unique track dedicated to the love of holiday music, and “Christmas in the City.” Although not on the album, be sure to check out Chan’s parody of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” the lyrically original “Jingle Bells.”
Jon & Valerie Guerra: “It’s Almost Christmas”
Husband and wife folk-singing duo Jon & Valerie Guerra have been recording holiday tunes since 2011, but are just finally releasing their first-ever full-length collection. The Chicago-based act’s album features 11 songs of merriment, including the original “It’s Almost Christmas,” which is all about the Windy City’s wonderment leading up to the big day. Jon’s guitar and piano playing greatly add to his and Valerie’s vocals on ditties like “Winter Wonderland” and “Edelweiss.” Catch the couple this December opening up for Amy Grant and Vince Gill’s Christmas at the Ryman shows in Nashville.
India.Arie & Joe Sample: “Christmas With Friends”
Soul singer India.Arie collaborated with jazz pianist and composer Joe Sample (who died in 2014) and many other friends for her first Christmas record. Ten tunes make up the album, including a jazzy version of “Silent Night” featuring singer Brandy, a sultry “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which is a duet with KEM, and a sexy, bluesy “Merry Christmas Baby” featuring Michael McDonald. The Grammy-winning singer also wrote a new tune with her mother and featuring the vocals of newcomer Tori Kelly called “Favorite Time of Year,” which contains lyrics about more modern Christmas traditions like taking pictures and watching Tyler Perry’s new movie (no sleigh rides here!).
KC And The Sunshine Band: “A Sunshine Christmas”
If you’re looking for Christmas music that you can dance to, check out “A Sunshine Christmas” from disco legends KC and the Sunshine Band. The fun album contains funky versions of the standards (like the great “Carol of the Bells”) and several festive original tunes such as the cowbell-laden “The After Christmas Song” (about the joys of the holidays being over) and “Sunshine Christmas” (about celebrating in a warmer climate). There’s also a unique, upbeat version of Wham’s “Last Christmas.”
Mannheim Steamroller: “Mannheim Steamroller LIVE”
The best-selling Christmas group of all time, Mannheim Steamroller, has released a live opus featuring 18 songs that have made composer Chip Davis and company fan favorites for decades. Recorded in December 2014 at the Orpheum Theater in the group’s hometown of Omaha, Neb., the album features unique orchestral compositions of holiday classics like “Deck the Halls,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman” and “Auld Lang Syne.” A highlight is a version of English folk song “Greensleeves” sung by Davis’ youngest daughter Elyse — the first vocalist ever allowed onstage with the group. “Mannheim Steamroller LIVE” is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. And if you want to see Mannheim Steamroller live for yourself, catch one of the 90 concerts the group will be performing this holiday season.
Sarah McLachlan: “The Classic Christmas Album”
Seventeen of Sarah McLachlan’s cherished holiday tunes from over the years have been compiled together on this one album. The talented singer’s take on staples like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” are simply breathtaking. McLachlan’s 2006 gem “Wintersong” and collaborations with the Barenaked Ladies (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings”) and Diana Krall (“Christmas Time is Here”) are key tracks.
Kylie Minogue: “Kylie Christmas”
Dance along with Kylie Minogue this Christmas! The Australian pop sensation’s first holiday collection opens with a breathy take on “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and features great duets with Frank Sinatra (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”), Iggy Pop (“Christmas Wrapping”) and James Corden (covering Yazoo’s “Only You,” which technically isn’t a holiday song, but the sappy sweet ode fits right in here). However, it’s the three groovy original numbers (“White December,” “Christmas Isn’t Christmas ’Til You Get Here” and the Chris Martin-penned “Every Day’s Like Christmas”) that really make this a must-have album. And if you can’t get enough, pick up the deluxe version of “Kylie Christmas,” with a DVD, which contains 22 songs compared to the regular album’s 13, including the disco-y “100 Degrees,” a duet with sister Dannii.
David Myles: “It’s Christmas”
The 13-track Xmas release from Canadian singer-songwriter David Myles features ditties sung in various styles — from bluegrass to jazz and everything in between. Myles puts a nice spin on standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” the countrified “Blue Christmas Lights” and “Sleigh Ride,” but it’s the originals — the joyous “It’s Christmas,” folky “The Gift” and, especially, the fun and funny “Santa Never Brings Me a Banjo” — that really make this effort a hit. Plus, Myles gets bonus points for donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album to Canada’s Food Banks.
Matthew And Gunnar Nelson: “This Christmas”
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson are switching from rock to country music and are introducing themselves to the genre via this acoustic guitar-driven holiday album, which the brothers self-produced. It opens with original tune “This Christmas,” a charming song featuring singer Alyssa Bonagura. “Joy to the World” has a unique arrangement, “Jingle Bells” is very festive and the soft and calming “White Christmas” is a great way to close the album. There are four instrumentals among the 12 songs, which feature fiddle virtuoso Molly Cherryholmes in place of actual singing. Matthew and Gunnar will be touring with their Christmas with the Nelsons show throughout the remainder of the year.
Greg Page: “Here Comes Christmas!”
With a whopping 26 tracks, the first seasonal release from original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page is an upbeat and wholesome album for the entire family with crystal clear vocals so you can easily learn all the words to sing along. Three brand new tunes — “Here Comes Christmas,” “Christmas Bells” and “It’s Christmas!” — written by Page and album producer Alec Miller begin the album on a high note before the holiday favorites kick in. Of note are the only new versions of “Dominick the Donkey” and “Feliz Navidad” out of this new crop of albums. An alternate version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and four non-Christmas bonus tunes at the end round out “Here Comes Christmas,” which is only available from iTunes or Butterscotch TV.
Pentatonix: “That’s Christmas To Me” (Deluxe Edition)
A deluxe version of a capella singing sensation Pentatonix’s platinum-selling “That’s Christmas to Me” is now available — and it’s been topping the holiday charts! The enhanced version features the 11 songs from the 2014 album, four newly recorded tracks and a special re-recording of “Mary Did You Know?” featuring The String Mob. The fivesome’s gospel choir-like version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a great way to draw listeners in, and it’s unbelievable how the vocalists utilize sounds and not words on their interpretation of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.” “Joy to the World” and the awesome “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy” mash-up (featuring additional vocals from singer Tori Kelly) are also noteworthy.
LeAnn Rimes: “Today Is Christmas”
LeAnn Rimes’ second holiday record really showcases her beautiful voice, especially on the fun “Holly Jolly Christmas/Frosty the Snowman” mash-up and “Christmas Time is Here.” Duets with Aloe Blacc (“That Spirit of Christmas”) and Gavin DeGraw (“Celebrate Me Home”) are big draws, as are the country songstress’ two cheery new songs “Today is Christmas” and “I Still Believe in Santa Claus.” An exclusive version of the album available only at Target has three bonus tracks. Fans can catch Rimes on her special holiday tour, which runs Dec. 4-20.
Kenny Rogers: “Once Again It’s Christmas”
With “Once Again It’s Christmas,” country music legend Kenny Rogers has now released six holiday albums throughout his nearly 40-year career. The new effort is very traditional and includes Rogers’ signature vocals on classics like “Little Drummer Boy,” “Back To Bethlehem” and “Here It Is/Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (a cute mash-up duet sung with Jennifer Nettles), and one newly written song, “The Light.” Alison Krauss, Home Free, Jim Brickman, The Time Jumpers and Winfield’s Locket also make guest appearances. Rogers is on his annual Christmas tour, which is now in its 34th straight year, until Dec. 23. Check out HNGN’s exclusive interview with Rogers HERE.
RuPaul: “Slay Belles”
“Slay Belles,” from drag queen extraordinaire RuPaul, comes 18 years after she released her first holiday opus, “Ho, Ho, Ho.” The digital-only album features original, merry and often cheeky dance tracks — like “Christmas Is About Love,” “From Your Heart” (featuring Michelle Visage), “You’re the Star (On My Christmas Tree)” and “Jingle Dem Bells” (featuring Big Freedia and Ellis Miah) — and crazy interludes featuring RuPaul and friends talking about things like Christmas, stripping and BB guns. Markaholic, Todrick Hall and Siedah Garrett also make appearances.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: “It’s A Holiday Soul Party”
Funk-soul band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ first holiday offering is a funky holiday treat. The 11-song set features both original and classic tracks. The new tunes on “It’s a Holiday Soul Party” will surely become instant hits: album opener “8 Days (Of Hanukkah)” is a cool song for Jewish people sick of “The Dreidel Song” and Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song”; “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects” is very modern and speaks to many; and the cheeky “Big Bulbs” is loads of fun. “White Christmas” and the jazzy “Silent Night” are other key numbers.
Patty Smyth: “Come On December”
Scandal front woman Patty Smyth’s first Christmas offering — and her first release in 16 years — contains only eight pop-rock tracks, but they all pack an emotional punch. Newly penned songs “Come On December,” “Walk With Me” and “Broken” work well alongside standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.”
Train: “Christmas In Tahoe”
The first-ever holiday album from multiplatinum band Train is exclusively available via Amazon, and Amazon Prime members in the U.S. and U.K. can stream it for free. Vocalist Pat Monahan stays true to the most famous versions of the Christmas classics like Elvis Presley’s “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” and Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me,” but newly-penned tunes like “Christmas Island” and “Shake Up Christmas” will thrill longtime fans.
Rhonda Vincent: “Christmas Time”
Bluegrass and country singer Rhonda Vincent’s second collection of holiday tunes is filled with fiddles, banjos and southern charm. The highlight of the record is the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which features some of the biggest country music artists, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels and the Oak Ridge Boys. The album features several original tracks from Vincent (like the fun “Milk & Cookies” and the sad title song) and ends with “Christmas Medley,” containing seven of the more religious traditional tunes.
Wizards Of Winter: “The Magic Of Winter”
Fans of classical-influenced and progressive rock music will want to check out the second Christmas rock opera from the Wizards of Winter, a group comprised of more than 10 musicians, including former members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “The Magic of Winter” features dynamic Broadway-style vocals and expert instrumentation on original compositions like the guitar-driven, album opening instrumental “Flight of the Snow Angels,” the feel good “The Spirit of Christmas” and the dramatic “Ebeneezer.” The album can be purchased on iTunes or via the band’s official website. The An Evening with Wizards of Winter tour runs through Dec. 29.
Various Artists: “A Classic Holiday… Presented By MBK”
Top R&B singers are featured on multimedia firm MBK Entertainment’s new compilation “A Classic Holiday…” Compiled by producer and artist manager Jeff Robinson, the 14-song disc features a mix of established and up-and-coming artists. Take note of Alicia Keys pretty piano playing as she sings about the “Little Drummer Girl” and Alex Harris as he delivers a soulful and sexy rendition of “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Other Christmas classics are sung by the likes of Brandy, Tyrese Gibson, Gabi Wilson, Anaysha, Justine Skye, Livrè, Bridgette Kelly, Swagg R’Celious, Elle Varner, Daisha, Coko and B. Slade.
Various Artists: “Love The Coopers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”
The soundtrack to the new seasonal movie “Love the Coopers” — which stars actors such as Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms and Diane Keaton — contains mellow tunes for a quiet and more subdued holiday. The disc opens with a soft and sweet original track from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, “The Light of Christmas Day.” Christmas and non-holiday songs from Fleet Foxes, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Sting, Nina Simone, Molly June & Wes Hutchinson, Sixpence None the Richer, The Dodos, Sarah Jarosz and Nick Urata round out the album.